Going into Birdman I had no idea what to expect from this film, but coming out of the theater I couldn’t help but keep an enormous grin on my face. So let me break it down to you in several parts to show you how memorizing this film really is. The first part is the star stunning performances of Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Ryan, and Andrea Riseborough. All performed to the fullest extent of perfection. Birdman is a Broadway satire and black comedy all in one, hint its subtitle: An Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance.
Riggan Thomson (Keaton) is a washed up actor who has fallen into hard times since he stopped playing his iconic superhero, Birdman, sum 20 years ago. Sound familiar? I thought so, this film actually parallels right with Keaton’s real life when he played the Caped Crusader in Tim Burton’s Batman sum 20 years ago. With two Batman films under his belt Keaton stopped and tried to move on to something else, but nothing came. The same goes for Riggan, after completing the Birdman trilogy Riggan called it quits to move on to bigger and better things, but still nothing came.
Keaton knows what it is like to be in a slum in the acting business, while also trying to move on from those damn tights in the past. Riggan is trying to get back on track with his acting career and makes a gusty call by writing, directing and starring in his own Broadway debut of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. His inspiration of the play and becoming an actor was influenced by none other than Carver himself. Riggan states that Carver apparently caught him, as a youngin, on the stage years back and wrote “Thank you for an honest performance. Raymond Carver” on a cocktail napkin. Keaton goes all out in his tour de force performance in this film.
Which leads us to the rest of Iñárritu's stellar cast. There’s Norton who gives us an award-worthy achievement as Mike Shiner, a Broadway actor whose ego is as big as his talent. With his mocks of mainstream media he drives Riggan off the wall and when the two clash it’s hilarious. Stone plays Riggan’s daughter Sam, a recovering junkie. Stone is raw and vibrant as the daughter who was over shadowed by her dad’s acting past and tells him he doesn’t exist anymore because he didn’t adapt to the viral world. Galifianakis breaks out of his comedic form to a more dignified role as Riggan’s loyal producer. Next, there’s Watts and Riseborough who are both trying to shine as young actresses, but Riseborough is a little distracted because she’s too busy screwing Riggan. Finally, there’s Ryan, Riggan’s ex-wife, who’s trying to bring balance to her family and a self-doubtful man whom she still cares about.
The second part is on a technical scale because Birdman blows every film out of the water this year. This film was shot too look like one meandering continuous take. This technical showcase was executed brilliantly by camera genius Emmanuel Lubezki (Oscar winner for Gravity). This aspect in the film, of course, is a major key to its glorious success. We follow all of the characters continuously throughout the film as their stories unfold right before our very eyes. The film smoothly veers from Riggan’s reality to his imagination and back again with no breaks … it’s breathtaking to watch on screen. Iñárritu throws us into the mist of Riggan’s craziness all throughout the film. One minute we are levitating off the ground too performing a play on stage too flying high above Manhattan. All of these illusion’s are pouring right out of Riggan’s head and blooming perfectly on screen.
The third part of this film that amazed me was its layered storytelling. Keaton’s narration is spot on and gives the film a since of ooh and aah. From the moment Keaton brings out his Birdman voice you’re hooked. Birdman gives Riggan hell and continues to stress him out until he gets to the point of a nervous breakdown in the film. Is he mad? A narcissist? A lunatic? Or just an actor? Either way, Keaton is potent and gives his best performance of his career. I’m smelling Oscar bait right here. The forth part that made this film vibe is the music. There's nothing but powerful drumming throughout the film, which drives Birdman to not fly but soar. Drummer Antonio Sánchez gave us a lively and upbeat soundtrack that jazzed me up.
Lastly, this all couldn’t have been done without the mind power behind the camera and that’s Iñárritu himself. This bold and beautifully captured film shows the human side of actors and their fight for survival on and off the stage. Iñárritu didn’t just create a film; he created a high and flying masterpiece that is sure to get lots of Oscar love this February. Birdman is a creatively risky work of art painted right on screen. Birdman is solidly performed, shot and executed from beginning until end. Plus there’s tons of laugh out loud moments evenly placed throughout. You’ll laugh until your sides hurt. It's one of my favorite films of the year and receives the highest of highs … five out of five stars. This is a film that will be talked about for years to follow. So brace yourself and buy a ticket now.
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